Using IoT to Help Patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an international organization dedicated to researching Alzheimer’s and supporting patients, over 44 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s globally. That’s only a portion of the global elderly population that suffers from dementia and other memory-based illnesses. As global healthcare improves, more people are living to an age where they’re affected by loss of cognitive function, especially memory.

A whole host of smart devices has sprung up in recent years in response to the need for in-home care for elderly patients. These devices allow older people to continue to live independently, in spite of the risk of forgetfulness or injury. What started with simple Life Alert buttons to call an ambulance has now grown into a thriving industry with sensors that track movement and activity in the home. These sensors help doctors deliver better treatment, families check in on their loved ones, and seniors rest easy knowing there will be help if anything goes wrong.

Tracking Motion and Location in the Home

IoT systems for Alzheimer’s patients begin by installing sensors throughout the home. These motion sensors track movement in the different rooms and areas of the house. Using these sensors, families and health monitoring companies can tell when the person has woken up, visited the bathroom, and entered the kitchen. While some families choose to install cameras throughout the home, the network only requires motion sensors to work, thereby protecting the senior’s privacy.

Daily movement information gets stored and processed through machine learning algorithms. Over time, the monitoring software learn’s the senior’s routine. When there’s a deviation from the routine, the computer alerts a monitoring company who can investigate to see if there’s a problem before contacting the family.

Sensors for Eating, Medication, & Leaving the House

The uses of smart devices for helping Alzheimer’s patients don’t end with tracking location. Smaller devices can be used to track specific actions throughout the day. For example, sensors can be installed in the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets to detect when the senior has eaten. Pill bottles can now include sensors to track whether the senior has taken their pills for the day. Additionally, GPS location tracking via a smartwatch or smart key ring can notify family members when the Alzheimer’s patient has exited the building or left the neighborhood.

IoT is Helping Alzheimer’s Patients Live at Home Longer

All the data that IoT devices collect can be shared with doctors to inform decisions. For instance, if sensors detect that a senior is visiting the bathroom frequently, that can be a sign of a urinary tract infection or prostate problem. A doctor can review a patient’s eating habits to suggest dietary supplements and meal plans for continued health.

While there’s no replacement for supervised care nurses and doctors, IoT devices are helping Alzheimer’s patients maintain independence for longer.